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C. Wright Mills: A Native Radical and His American Intellectual Roots

av Rick Tilman

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The first thorough examination of C. Wright Mills's intellectual roots, this book also is the first to present Mills's full analysis in his unpublished as well as published writings of the work of his precursors, mentors, and critics. Mills' intellectual line of descent is traced from the American institutional economists, especially Thorstein Veblen and Clarence Ayres, and the American pragmatists, especially John Dewey and George H. Mead--an evolution influenced though not determined by ideas from Europe. Always the critic and gadfly, Mills subjected all theories to his special brand of analysis and synthesis. For example, his books on U.S. social stratification are seen by Tilman as a trilogy updating Veblen with ideas from the pragmatists, spiced with a good bit of Max Weber but very little Man. Power, his other chief concern, also was subjected to his creative American eclecticism. As a lifelong seeker of knowledge, Mills studied the great European social thinkers--notably Marx, Mosca, Pareto, Michels, Weber, Mannheim, and Freud--until his untimely death. Explaining Mills's self-description as a "plain Marxist," Tilman writes that it "amounted to little more than a willingness to use Marx's values, vocabulary, and model when these seemed relevant and to ignore them when they did not." Regarding alleged affinities between Freud and Mills, Tilman argues these were "tenuous at best and, although the linkage with the neo-Freudians was stronger, Mills remained critical of Homey and Fromm because they had "not succeeded in entirely overcoming Freud's biological metaphysic." Although the American radical tradition is complex and varied, the heritage that most influenced Mills, Tilman contends, contains elements of evangelical Protestantism and of liberal pragmatism. "It was Charles Wright Mills more than any other thinker in recent years," he concludes, "who synthesized these strands of thought and then wove them into an authentic American radical theory."… (mer)

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The first thorough examination of C. Wright Mills's intellectual roots, this book also is the first to present Mills's full analysis in his unpublished as well as published writings of the work of his precursors, mentors, and critics. Mills' intellectual line of descent is traced from the American institutional economists, especially Thorstein Veblen and Clarence Ayres, and the American pragmatists, especially John Dewey and George H. Mead--an evolution influenced though not determined by ideas from Europe. Always the critic and gadfly, Mills subjected all theories to his special brand of analysis and synthesis. For example, his books on U.S. social stratification are seen by Tilman as a trilogy updating Veblen with ideas from the pragmatists, spiced with a good bit of Max Weber but very little Man. Power, his other chief concern, also was subjected to his creative American eclecticism. As a lifelong seeker of knowledge, Mills studied the great European social thinkers--notably Marx, Mosca, Pareto, Michels, Weber, Mannheim, and Freud--until his untimely death. Explaining Mills's self-description as a "plain Marxist," Tilman writes that it "amounted to little more than a willingness to use Marx's values, vocabulary, and model when these seemed relevant and to ignore them when they did not." Regarding alleged affinities between Freud and Mills, Tilman argues these were "tenuous at best and, although the linkage with the neo-Freudians was stronger, Mills remained critical of Homey and Fromm because they had "not succeeded in entirely overcoming Freud's biological metaphysic." Although the American radical tradition is complex and varied, the heritage that most influenced Mills, Tilman contends, contains elements of evangelical Protestantism and of liberal pragmatism. "It was Charles Wright Mills more than any other thinker in recent years," he concludes, "who synthesized these strands of thought and then wove them into an authentic American radical theory."

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